Wednesday, 22 October 2014

More from the Russo-Turkish War

Our man with the Russians and Turks had another week off work (gotta fit his holiday in before the end of the year) so we decided to have another go with them.

We like the Neil Thomas rules, but we found for the very large games we're playing that they can be a bit slow. all that measuring and stuff. So Chris - the one with the Russians and Turks, - wondered if we could try and put it on squares.

Since we last played I'd acquired a copy of the rule book and knocked up a playsheet. we had a quick discussion about move distances & ranges then set the table up.

Loads of Russians have been set the task of storming the Turkish defence line. I got the Turks. Please note first official use of my river corners to allow the rivers to follow the square boundaries more easily.

The Russians advanced generally. Chris spread his guns out along the line. I reckon he'd be better off as the Russians to set up a grand battery. Their firepower is otherwise pretty rubbish, as they can only deploy and fight in column.

As we were using squares we thought it'd be okay to deploy the Turks in a single element depth line, rather than the usual 2 x 2 formation in the earlier photographs.

We had some cavalry tussles on the flanks and I generally came off worse. I knew I'd have to rely on my rifle armed Turkish militia to save the day, so blazed away merrily at the on-rushing Slavic hordes.

I did a pretty good job of that, blowing away a few columns as they approached. We have a question mark over density per square for units, or whether we need smaller squares

My dragoons were forced back from the river line, but I gave the Russian dragoons a bloody nose first. I'm in danger here of having the flank turned. Luckily I'm facing Russians.

And still they come. At this point I realise that my line has some holes in it where the guns are. Whoops.

I rapidly deployed some infantry into the gaps, and limbered up my guns (the sharp eyed amongst you will notice the limbers aren't exactly Turkish as Chris hasn't got any. Yet).

The Russians limber up and move their guns forward as well. The limber bases are green as they're my limbers, but they are Russian. They're Minifig Crimean limbers modified for the RCW.

The Russians mass for the attack on the hill on my right. We had a bit of a discussion here. We like the NT rule that only one unit can fight to each face of a defending unit, but we felt the supporting column in the square should make a difference, so we added one d6 per base for the attackers. I think this should be up to a maximum of the bases in the smaller of the two units.

And still they come.

This just happened. That is a properly cocked dice.

As you can see the Russians forced my unit on the hill back, but elsewhere they died in droves and the Turks booked a big win, without deploying their full forces.

Chris' conclusion - "I need more Russians".

The square experiment worked pretty well, although we have some slight refining to get it right. It certainly speeded the game up. This took about 3 hours and we had a lot of toys on the table.

Left us enough time for a game of AMW.

Which Chris won.

I'm a nice host, aren't I?

Monday, 20 October 2014

It's my blog and I'll write what I want to (3)

So this weekend I did some father/daughter bonding. Miss T wanted to go to the theatre for her birthday (which was, like, months ago). Being her, of course, and living on the South Coast the only place to go would have to be Salford.

So, Dad being Dad said, - you drive to us (we're sorta half way) then I'll drive to Salford, we can stay over, I'll drive back then you can drive home.

Dads are brilliant, aren't they?

So that's what we did. Actually we weren't going to Salford as such, but to Salford Quays.

Salford Quays is (for our overseas readership) is a piece of urban regeneration where the port and docks of the old Manchester Ship Canal have been replaced by shops n'stuff. It looks bright & shiny, doesn't it?

The big employers here are TV companies, as this is also the area known as MediaCity. Both the BBC and ITV have studios here (look! The Blue Peter logo & Giant Badges). Coronation Street has a brand new set here somewhere. Probably in the building with "CORONATION STREET" written on the side in big letters.

As the show wasn't on until the evening Miss T went shopping. In her spare time she does a bit of singing in a band with work colleagues. They have a gig next week and she wanted something to wear.

So I went to IWM North.

Yep, pretty much within 24 hours I visited both IWM South & IWM North. And, in a reversal of my visit to IWM South earlier in the year the main exhibit was closed but the Great War exhibit was open.

Yes, the main exhibition area was closed all afternoon for a pre-booked event. On a Saturday.

Well, I wanted to see the WW1 stuff mostly anyway.

The IWM South gallery is about how the war started and its overall conduct. The IWM North exhibition is more about its affect on the lives of ordinary people. Well, when I say "ordinary people" I mean people, as it covers some extra-ordinary people as well.

It's very good. Well laid out and presented and very informative. Alas you are not allowed to take photographs (why?) except in the dressing up area, so a few words to describe it will have to suffice.

The story is told by linking together exhibits and displays with excerpts from letters and contemporary writings, - for example letters between a woman and her sister in the USA. There's a good use of historic film footage, including girls working in munition factories through to extended excerpts from the film shot about the opening of the Somme battle.  It's well worth a visit if you are local, and makes an excellent pairing with the London exhibit if you are lucky enough to be able to see both of them.

 Oh, yes, and they have a T-55 in the car park, a companion piece to the T-34 inside, which was not open to visitors on the day I went. Did I mention that?

After that I met up with Miss T again and Master T and his girl friend joined us for an early dinner before the show, which was in the Lowry Centre:

Quite a striking building, I'm sure you'll agree. It has two theatres and gallery and exhibition spaces. Our show was in the little theatre at the back, called "The Quays".

What we went to see was "Welcome to Night Vale" live. For those of you not familiar with this particular podcast all I can say is it is completely undescribable. A bit like the X-Files meets The Archers. It has been going for a couple of years and releases two episodes a month. It has a big cult following. The cast have been doing live shows in the US for a year or so, but this is their first European Tour.

The show isn't much to look at, but that doesn't bother the fans (although the Irish Times Reviewer simply didn't get it when the show was done in Dublin). It's a radio show, in essence, done live.

The set really isn't very much, is it?

This is the marvellous Meg, who does the podcast credits. On this occasion she MC'd and introduced things. And asked us not to bother people when we took pictures (including a barbed injunction against i-Pad users who hold the things up and block everyone's view. Right on, girl). She also plays Deb, a sentient haze, who reads product adverts during the show.

This is the star, Cecil Baldwin, who plays Cecil Palmer the host of Night Vale Community Radio. He has superb delivery and great stage presence, even when holding a script. Like me, you get a lot of glare off his head when taking a picture.

This is the full cast. Left to Right, - Meg, Cecil, Desiree (who voiced ex-Mayor Pamela Winchell),  Michelle Nguyen who runs Dark Owl Records, Joseph Fink (one of the writers) and Mary Epworth, who was The Weather. Gee, that's an odd mix of real and pretend names.

They ask you not to give away the story, which is fair, so no clues. although the show is called "The Librarian", so if you know anything about the WTNV world that'll give you some clues anyway. (Librarians are large, reptilian creatures as likely to bite your head off as recommend you a good read).

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable evening. If you don't follow WTNV and you do like sci-fi or sci-fantasy or find conspiracy theories amusing or enjoyed Twin Peaks then seek it out. It's free to down load.

Plus tickets are still available for one of the London dates.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Second Time Around

Last month I went to London and tried to visit the new Great War Gallery at the Imperial War Museum. I wrote about it here: Visit to London.

In summary we were unable to get into that gallery and I was underwhelmed by the exhibits and the general lack of understanding by the visitors elsewhere.

Today I had to be back in the City for a sort of interview for a totally hush-hush job. Honest. The only time this could be arranged was for 9:30am on a Friday, which left me the rest of the day in London. I tried to hook up with some contacts, most of whom were having a Friday off (although I did meet up with someone for lunch) so I was slightly at a loose end. Well, I thought, why not try the IWM again.

I'm glad I did. The Great War Gallery is excellent.

The exhibits are exceptional. Well chosen, well displayed and well explained. The non-exhibit displays are also very, very good. Very clear explanations of why the war started and what was going on at each stage of the conflict. Excellent hands on stuff for kids & grown ups (including a good touch screen game about keeping essential supplies flowing into the UK through the U-Boat threat. The key is to form convoys everyone, and give them an escort).

The place was very busy, and not just school parties. You still get amazing levels of ignorance ("Of course German Machine Guns were so much better than ours". No they weren't.) but I have to give a very honourable mention to one woman in particular.

She was a young teacher with a group of 13-14 year olds. They were industriously doing their work sheets. They were well behaved and well mannered. She worked her way round the various groups pointing out what they should be looking at and giving clear and correct explanations of what was being looked at. She was, to my mind, a model professional. I know she'll never read this, but well done to you, young lady. You are a credit to the much-maligned teaching profession.

Any how, I took some pictures too.

Love the sign with the bullet holes.

A minenwerfer. No idea of scale, which is makes this a poor picture, but the things were big and heavy. Not exactly the most mobile of trench weapons.

Mr Stoke's educated drain pipe, in a display case of trench raiding weapons of varying degrees of unpleasantness.

Yeah. They've got a tank, crossing a fake trench. That white looking piece of trench wall was illuminated with shadow projections of troops moving on it with a sound track. Very good.

The classic infantry weapon trio. The Lewis Gun, the Lee Enfield and the Rifle Grenade launcher. Look at the information board which is a model of relevance and clarity.

I'd like to have had longer there, but I had to be somewhere else. Be good to go back.

I hope, when the time is right, that they re-do the WW2 exhibits to the same standard.

Yes, definitely one to recommend.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Ancient Chinese Finger Torture

A year or so back Mrs T and I had a holiday in China.  On the last day in a park in Beijing I saw some wooden model building kits. I bought two, one of the Tienamen Gate and one of a traditional courtyard house.  They were about 15 mm scale.  I know - I took some figures with me to check the size of likely purchases.

I built the gate pretty much as soon as I got home. The Courtyard house was more of an issue. I really wanted to break it up into smaller pieces, but the instructions are quite complicated and I couldn't work out how the bits made the buildings. I therefore wimped out and put it on the shelf.

However, now I'm back painting Taipings the time had come to put it together. About 30 minutes. 45 tops to get it done I thought.

Actually closer to five hours, I think. And the pieces are a tight fit. No glue required, but pushing the pieces together isn't kind to the fingers. 

Anyway, I don't know what I'm going to do with it, but I think you'll agree it looks lovely. Wish I'd been able to buy another one to experiment with.

So, part way through the build. You can see the skeleton taking shape, and the press out templates. The instructions recommended pushing all of the pieces out first, but I thought that was a good way of losing them and not being able to track what goes where.

A close up of the construction. The quality isn't bad. The precut pieces are mostly pre-cut all the way round. There was one minor tooling error in the base, with the slots being out by a couple of millimetres. This made it quite hard to push together, but a bit of BF&I fixed the problem.

Finished at last. Here's a shot of the doorway and the two Lions guarding it.

The Central Courtyard is printed onto the base board. It's mostly lined up with doorways.

I managed to get a final shot without flash, which shows the natural colours better. Now I can see it in one piece it looks like I can divide it up into half a dozen buildings or wall sections with a fret saw. This is a similar problem to the old Airfix La Haye Sainte model. Nice to have, but it takes up a lot of space and is actually more useful as three component buildings.

Anyway, it's done now, If I cut it up I'll be able to paint it as well, At the moment it's a bit awkward to do.

Finally, as I know people will ask, I have been unable to find any more of these on line. The manufacturers name might be "Human Article" or it might not. They also do a model of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. That, and the Tienanmen Gate, might be findable on line as re-sellers have them as "Great Buildings of the World".

Just a warning, - if you do find any despite what it says on the package it isn't a toy and a child of the age of 12 would struggle to assemble it. And it does play merry hell with your finger tips.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Taiping Cavalry

(I seem to have lost this post & so I'm re-typing it as best as I can remember)

Well I finished the first cavalry figures.  I'm mostly pleased with them. All these pictures were taken on my smartphone so apologies for any quality issues.

The cavalry are based two to a base on the same size bases as the infantry. That gives a ratio of 2:1 horses to infantry, which feels about right.

Unlike the infantry these are painted with a bit more variety, - less regimented more brigandish, I would say. Some of the figures are dressed in spiffy looking silks, produced by dotting the base colour then adding a centre to make it look like flowers.

I did a couple of the figures in red uniform jackets, however.

I did the horses as a mix of colours. I'm using Colour Party Horse Sheens.

The right hand end figures are all in black, which was apparently a custom amongst veteran Taiping fighters.

The figures are good, with paintable detail but not too much. The horses stand up well and are quite firm on their bases, - no spindly legs, which can be an occasional Irregular problem. Very pleased with them.

Now back to the desk to finish off some more Assyrians. I've got a couple of chariots, a dozen cavalry and five or six infantry units to do then I'm done. Tempting as it is to dive into more of the Taipings I know that if I don't finish the Assyrians now they'll never get done.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Return to the Taiping

So, a year or so back I wrote a set of rules to fight battles in 1860's China, - the Era of the Taiping Rebellion. The rules worked fine, it was just I didn't have any Taiping figures.

Until now.

Earlier this year Ian Kay of Irregular Miniatures released a small but perfectly adequate range of Taiping Rebels and their Maio allies. Despite having fore-sworn metal miniatures these couldn't be passed up.

I spoke to Ian about doing these a year or so back, together with French troops for the 1860 invasion of China. He already does suitable British and Imperial Chinese (although he could do with a Mongol cavalry man). I'd like to think he listened, although he only acknowledged the influence of "OB", well known from TMP when I asked him.

Thanks OB! His painted figures are over on the Irregular website, and mighty fine they look too. I picked up a load of the unpainted ones from Ian at Derby (thanks to my big brother, - a belated birthday present).

Here are some pictures of my first attempt at an infantry unit.

My basic Chinese units have two pike/spear and two firearms bases. I'll do the units in pairs, so I can have all spear and all firearm units if I want.

The nearest spear man is actually a standard bearer. Taiping flags will follow as soon as I've done the research and drawn the pictures.

A group of shot with a foot officer. The officer is supposed to have a flower decorated silk cowl. One of the musketeers has a "victory helmet". I'm not too sure on the colours for this, but it matches the written descriptions.

Another block of spears. I think the bamboo spears have come up quite nicely.

The figures are very pleasing, - the details pretty clear and I like the poses and animation in them. They suffer from some of the usual Irregular problems, - weak ankles, for example and the occasional loss of definition, but they're still good to paint and I think they look the part. They're not overly big and muscular, and do look distinctly oriental. Definite thumbs up to Ian at Irregular for taking on a rare period and providing some good figures for it.

Next up some cavalry.

BTW - I've also posted a link to my "Taiping Era" rules up top right. They cover both Taipings v Imps, Imps v Europeans and European trained troops v Taipings .Let me know if the download doesn't work, - my document storage system has changed since I last posted a link to it.

Friday, 10 October 2014

More Brown Water

As one of the players who really wanted to play Hammerin' Iron was missing last week, I thought we'd have another go this week. Then he was taken ill, but I thought, let's do it anyway. After all, I'd done the work.

The most well known naval battle of the ACW is Hampton Roads. Every wargamer usually knows it's where the first clash of Ironclads took place - the CSS Virginia/Merrimack v the USS Monitor. What the wargamer with only a casual interest doesn't know is that the day before the clash of the Ironclads there was a more extensive engagement where the CSS Virginia had a go at several large ocean going ships, whilst accompanied by some smaller vessels. The Virginia gave the Union a right scare, inflicting the first major defeat on the USN.*

I did some minimal research (Wikipedia and that rather good website) and established that I had at least one of the ships present. That would be the Virginia, 'cos, like, EVERYONE who does this sort of thing buys the Virginia and the Monitor. Obvs.

The rest of the ships are all wooden, and are a mixture of side wheelers, sloops of war and frigates. I went through my collection to get the closest matches possible and massaged up some ship stats. I had to guess on a few as most aren't in the HI rule books. I also tweaked the stats to give some ships more of a chance.

The area of the battle is a bit more complex than what I laid out, but then my wargames table doesn't have a bend in the middle and I didn't want to cramp the player's ability to manoeuvre too much.

This is the set up. I put the Virginia part way onto the table, with the Congress and the Cumberland anchored. The Confederate "James River Fleet" will enter from the top of the board, and the Union reinforcements will come on from the bottom right. The Rebel aims are to sink as many Yankee ships as possible, unite the fleet and then retire up the channel on the left to refit. The Yankees want to stop them and sink everything possible.

Will took the Rebs,  I took the Yankees until the Dormouse arrived to help me out.

The opening moves. The Virginia steams in at full speed. The Congress (aka the Rochester) has seen her and raised steam. The Cumberland is being a bit tardy.

The initial exchange of fire causes damage on both sides, and fires break out. This is an interesting fight. The Congress has a seriously heavy broadside, but no armour, the Virginia the opposite. In this exchange due to some demon dice rolling the Virginia comes off worse.

The Cumberland gets under way and joins the action. The Virginia and the Congress have managed to immobilise each other with hits to the pilot cabin and the smoke stacks. The Cumberland has a fire break out, the other two ships having got theirs under control.

In the distance the James River fleet enters the table.

Forced to cross a sandbank the Cumberland runs aground.

The Cumberland frees herself and the Virginia is likewise under way as well. She's moving slowly and has a big turning circle. Can she get at the Congress before she can restart her engines? The James River Fleet throw themselves into the action to hold the Union ships in place so the Virginia can get back into the battle. More fires break out.

Off camera the Union reinforcements arrive.

The CSS Patrick Henry (aka Blackhawk) is burning and immobile. The CSS Teaser is moving up to give her a tow.  The Union reserves are now involved. It's not looking good for the Rebels.

A hit to the CSS Jamestown's magazine causes a major explosion. The Virginia continues to limp round in her vast turning circle but her prey, the Congress, is still not moving.

The Patrick Henry succumbs to the fire. The James River fleet is down to one ship.

The "fleets" circle one another cautiously. The Virginia continues to turn (NB In the battle with the Monitor the Virginia took an hour to line up an ram, and then missed....history repeating itself, perhaps?)

Finally the Virginia rams something, suffering a ferocious broadside as she comes in.

The Congress, struck squarely amidships, goes down spectacularly. Alas for the Virginia the impact damages her ram and causes a fire to break out. Desperately trying to put this out she starts to limp for home.

Then the Cumberland and USS Minnesota (aka Sassacus) get full broadsides on her and she expires. Game over.

A decisive victory for the Union, although pretty hairy with the loss of the Congress. The Virginia was very unlucky, and her loss of movement early on was significant.

We're still enjoying old "Hammerin' Iron 2". I updated my ship stats and gun layouts from the new book which Will had lent me. I think that before we play again I need to look at the saving rolls for proper ironclads. Historically the Virginia was pretty much immune to most of the fire directed at her, a fact not reflected in the game. Of course you need a bit of play balance and I don't want ships side to side pounding at each other for hours.

*This probably tells you quite a lot about the history of the USN. There's less than a dozen ships involved in which only one is sunk. Get some perspective, guys